The David Hayes & Tom Dabernig-trained Criterion will get his first run in Australia in over three months this Saturday. The four-year-old horse is one of eight horses set to tackle the Group 1 Canterbury Stakes (1300m) after Fontelina was scratched this morning.
Criterion was a two-time Group One winner as a three-year-old, taking out both the Group 1 Rosehill Guineas (2000m) and Group 1 Australian Derby (2400m) last autumn. He was luckless during the spring, failing to win any of his six starts, but did finish runner-up in both the Group 2 Hill Stakes (2000m) and Group 1 Caulfield Stakes (2000m).
He was transferred from David Payne’s stables to the care of Hayes & Dabernig following the spring and had his first start for the training duo in the Group 1 Hong Kong Cup (2000m) at Sha Tin on December 14.
Criterion surprised many with a third placing in the $3.8 million Hong Kong Cup, with a starting price of $39, and his trainers are confident he can deliver a similar result in the 2015 Canterbury Stakes.
“His (exhibition) gallop at Sandown thrilled me, I thought it was a sparkling piece of work where he broke 33 (seconds) over his last 600 and wasn’t really let go,” Hayes told Racing Victoria.
“His trial since in private was also really good, from then on we’ve kept him fresh and the good horses like him that I’ve trained over the years have sprinted well fresh in these sort of races.
“We’re still learning with him but I’ve got no doubt that he’s a high-class horse.”
Criterion is an $11 hopeful in the Canterbury Stakes betting at Ladbrokes.com.au, currently led by Catkins ($2.80) and Cosmic Endeavour ($3.30).
The gelding is just beginning his 2015 autumn racing carnival campaign, the main target of which is the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) on April 11. While Hayes is expecting him to return strongly in Saturday’s race and finish powerfully, he admits Criterion will be a better chance in the Group 1 George Ryder Stakes (1500m) in two weeks.
“He’ll be a better chance in the George Ryder in two weeks’ time but for his future stallion value if he was able to come over the top of them on Saturday I think it would be the making of him,” he said.
“All of these races lead-ups to the Queen Elizabeth and that’s the race we expect he’ll be peaking in.”
If you believe Criterion can win the 2015 Canterbury Stakes in his first Australian start under the care of Hayes & Dabernig, head on over to Ladbrokes.com.au today. New customers will receive up to $250 in a bonus match on their first bet.